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Many people with eczema use products and practices that are outside Western, or conventional, medicine to help manage their symptoms. If you use these natural therapies with doctor-prescribed medications, you are using a “complementary” method to manage your eczema. If you are using natural therapies in place of conventional medicine, you are using an “alternative” method.
Before you consider any kind of treatment, it’s important to understand what triggers your eczema. Learning about the irritants in your everyday surroundings can help you better manage the condition whether you use traditional medications, alternative therapies or both.
The following complementary and alternative therapies have been studied and found to benefit certain symptoms of eczema in adults. Check with your healthcare provider if you are interested in trying alternative therapies on your child’s eczema.
Studies show that applying coconut oil topically reduces the amount of staph bacteria on the skin, which reduces the chance of infection.
Apply coconut oil once or twice a day to damp skin. Be sure to choose coconut oils that are “virgin” or “cold pressed.” This method of oil extraction does not use chemicals, which could further irritate skin.
Sunflower oil boosts the skin’s barrier function, helping it to retain moisture. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Apply sunflower oil to adult skin twice a day, with one of those times being shortly after bathing while skin is still wet.
Avoid using sunflower oil, if you have a known allergy to sunflower seeds.
Cardiospermum is a flowering tropical vine native to India and Africa. When extracted and put into a topical ointment, cardiospermum can help reduce inflammation, itch and bacteria on the skin.
Topical vitamin B12 has been shown to be effective on eczema symptoms in both adults and children. However, there is no commercial product as of this writing, and so it must be compounded. Dr. Peter Lio, a dermatologist at Chicago Integrative Eczema Center and member of the NEA Board of Directors and Scientific & Medical Advisory Council, shares this recipe for a B12 compound, Pink Magic.
You can also mix 0.07 grams of vitamin B12 in a moisturizer base.
Stress is a known trigger for atopic dermatitis flares. Though the exact relationship between stress and atopic dermatitis is unknown, experts believe that when you experience a stressful situation, your body produces inflammation. And inflammation is an underlying cause of atopic dermatitis symptoms.
Some experts believe that there is a strong connection between the mind and skin disorders. In fact, some doctors practice what is known as “psychodermatology” to help the patient with stress, anxiety and other emotional disorders that may worsen his or her symptoms. Psychodermatology is more commonly practiced in Europe than the U.S.
Some techniques used include:
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but with physical pressure applied to certain points on the body, rather than needles, to unblock “life energy.” Limited studies show that acupressure can help relieve the symptoms of itch and lichenification — thick, leathery skin.
It is well known that massage helps relieve stress, which may then help reduce eczema flares. It’s important to go to a massage therapist who is accredited and experienced with working with people with non-contagious skin conditions. Prior to your appointment, check with your massage therapist to be sure the oils and lotions used will not trigger your eczema or make it worse. Bring your own, if you are unsure.